For my first online lecture this fall, I sat at a picnic table on the Bald Spot. It was beautiful. I decided I had found the perfect place to Zoom.
So the next time I sat there, I had high hopes—and that was certainly part of the problem. No sooner had I begun to hear a buzzing noise—still faint but growing louder—than I noticed that the notorious green box was clinging to my part of the screen, even when I wasn’t talking. I sprang for the mute button and resolved to stay muted for the rest of class—but this wasn’t enough. With alarming speed, an enormous vehicle whose function I will probably never learn was making its way across the lawn and directly toward me. Its roar soon drowned out the professor’s voice, and I missed some instructions for our next assignment.
But just as it came close to my picnic table, the vehicle turned around and sped back in the opposite direction, leaving nothing behind it but a fading hum and a strip of somewhat flattened grass. I had been spared!
Or so I thought. When the vehicle turned around again at the opposite end of the Bald Spot and headed back toward me, I turned off my camera and ran.
Luckily I didn’t need to run far: just yards away, near the parking lot next to the Chapel, was that assortment of tilting wooden boards that looked so much like benches! (I don’t think I would quite have called them that even then.) Sitting on one board, setting my computer on another, and turning my camera back on, I remembered having seen other people sit there; maybe this odd work of modern art really was meant as a seating arrangement. And then I understood why desks were flat: my computer was headed straight for the ground.
My final refuge that day was Anderson. I began to see why so many people raved about this particular Zoom venue, and I spent a few more class sessions there. But the journey was too long. Since I could never make it from Musser to Anderson on time without running (if at all), I settled for more accessible destinations: my room if my roommate wasn’t studying there; the lounge if no one who was thinking the same thing had acted faster; the various benches outside if the weather was mild, the WiFi was functional, or there was no other choice.
And even such modest destinations could be difficult to reach in time, as I learned the hard way one slow morning. Amazed to have made it out of bed at all, I arrived at Burton with about ten minutes to grab food, eat, leave, and find somewhere to sit down and log on before class—but, I told myself, ten minutes wasn’t nothing! Over breakfast I checked my email and daydreamed about what it might be like to have time management skills. Then I left the dining room with a full two minutes to spare. It was almost peaceful until I realized as I walked through the hallway that I wouldn’t even make it to Upper Sayles in two minutes, much less any of my usual places: without another thought, I dashed out the nearest exit onto an ugly back patio where I caught sight of what appeared to be a fire escape; figuring this was the best I would find, I scaled the first flight of stairs, plunked my computer on the landing and myself a few steps below, set my pencil where it might not immediately fall through the iron slats, and logged onto the meeting. I have yet to find a less comfortable or more exciting place to Zoom.